The new Farmers Union Camp near Jamestown is expected to open with campers in July, according to Mark Watne, president of North Dakota Farmers Union.

The almost $4 million project broke ground in September near Jamestown Reservoir and includes three buildings on land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that is being transferred to Stutsman County. NDFU signed a lease agreement with the entities for the property.

The project work is being led by Hillerud Construction, Watne said.

“It’s turning out really great and it’s looking really, really nice,” Watne said. “We’re getting everything we had really hoped for and we’re probably running three weeks ahead of schedule.”

The main lodge includes a gymnasium/lunchroom, STEM classroom, kitchen, game room and a co-op store, where youth can purchase snacks and souvenirs, with the profits going to a charity.

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The dorm where campers will stay will have nine lodging rooms, seven of which will sleep 18 youth and a staff member, with the other two rooms used by other staff, Watne said.

There is also a building for storage.

The camp will have a softball field, outdoor basketball and volleyball courts as well as access to the public beach.

NDFU has two facilities for Farmers Union Camp, one near Elgin on Lake Tschida, Heart Butte Reservoir, and the new one near Jamestown Reservoir.

NDFU decided to build its own facility near Jamestown after renting a camp near Valley City, Watne said, due to increasing costs, availability and having more campers. The year before the coronavirus pandemic began, NDFU had 1,222 campers, he said.

“We’re planning on going to a couple thousand kids going through camp each summer and to do that we just need control of our own facility so this will enable us to probably get real close to 2,000 or 2200 kids if we can fill it,” he said.

Last year, NDFU offered camps for fewer participants due to the coronavirus pandemic and did not have issues with COVID-19, he said. The camps will follow whatever the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, he said.

“We’re hoping that the vaccination gets far enough along by then that it’s a lesser problem,” Watne said, referring to the coronavirus. “We’re realistic that it’s not going away just like that.”

This summer there are four- and five-day camps planned for students in grades 3-6 and 7-12. Twenty-two staff have been hired for the camps, which cost about $150 to $200 per person.

The camps are for NDFU members. Membership for a family is $30 per year.

The camps provide an opportunity to develop young people and education is part of what NDFU does, Watne said.

“Our real name is Farmers Union Educational and Cooperative Union of America - North Dakota Division,” Watne said. “So we’re an education organization. We truly believe that you need to develop leaders in children and you need to teach them tools that help them become that leader.”

The organization offers youth programs to counties as well as the camps, which include fun and educational opportunities.

“So we’re teaching some of the social aspects of life and coming together, being cooperative and stepping up and being a leader to get things done,” Watne said.

For more information, go to ndfu.org.